Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food
I’m pleased to announce that 5,569 farmers chose to use the new Rural Payments Wales Online service to submit their Single Application Form (SAF) in 2014. To put this into context, this number represents 32% of 2014 SAFs being submitted online in the first year of the new service. This is an excellent start comparing very favourably with the position in England where 16% of SAFs were submitted electronically in the first year.
The Welsh Government has invested the considerable sum of £7.9 million to establish this new, modern service and we have done so because we are determined to simplify and improve the payment application process for all concerned.
The new system will help reduce errors at the application stage, quickly allowing farmers to cross check with their interactive farm maps and provide further protection for farmers against delays and penalties. Its success also provides yet further evidence of our positive response to Gareth Williams Working Smarter review, which is all about reducing bureaucracy for farmers in Wales and allowing them to focus on the business of farming.
I wish to put on record my sincere thanks to the many farmers, the farming unions and agents who worked with Rural Payments Wales to develop the system. Their positive engagement and suggestions were invaluable, making sure that the system we have rolled-out is as easy to use as possible. Also to Welsh Government officials, who worked hard to make this happen. The collaborative approach, and the time and effort that many have given to this project, has resulted in a first class outcome for farmers and a model of partnership working that I am keen to see expanded.
I expect all CAP payment application processes to be available on-line only by 2016. I will ensure that we provide the necessary support on the ground to ensure that nobody is left behind as this important modernisation project beds in. That support will include locally available clinics where farmers will be able to access the new system and hands-on training. We will also work closely with other stakeholder to ensure that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to support farmers through the move to on-line.